Sheffield Wednesday: Standing up to Alex Ferguson and Manchester United over David Hirst – former Owls boss gives his side of the story
A Sheffield Wednesday legend, a £4million bid and a club that would go on to dominate the 90s in English football.
The transfer saga involving David Hirst and Manchester United will go down as another ‘what-if’ moment in the Premier League era.
Would the Barnsley-born striker have edged ahead of Alan Shearer to become England’s top forward of the 90s had he moved across the Pennines?
Where would Wednesday have been without their talismanic striker – a player whose later Owls career would be blighted by injuries?
That those questions can be asked is down to Wednesday – and in particular then-boss Trevor Francis – standing firm on Hirst’s future.
And as Francis reveals in his new autobiography ‘One In A Million’ it involved facing down one of the most ferocious figures in British football, Alex Ferguson.
Francis writes: “Our best striker at Sheffield Wednesday was undoubtedly David Hirst but like me he was blighted by injury so we never saw the best of him because he was constantly in and out of the treatment room.
“When he was fit he was a very good player.
“I remember seeing his debut for England on the same night as Alan Shearer made his debut and there was very little to choose between thetwo of them.
“Manchester United were following David for a while when Alex Ferguson was manager and I can still hear Alex now on my car phone totally exasperated with me because he had put in two offers which I had knocked back.
“He then offered £4m and with the 100 per cent backing of the board I told him we were not interested in doing anything with David Hirst.
“I refused £4m and Alex bellowed down the phone in his Scottish accent, ‘Do you realise this is Manchester United Football Club and you are stopping a player from going to Man Utd?’
“I told him that Sheffield Wednesday were a big club, not as big as Man Utd, and that I was looking to continue the improvements I was making and David Hirst was a big part of my plans.
“I stuck to my guns but I will never forget Alex Ferguson telling me what he thought of me!
“I was on the M1 motorway and he was not aware that Helen [Francis’ wife] was in the car listening to him on the speaker phone.
“If she had been a referee he would undoubtedly have been given a red card for his bad language!”
Francis’ autobiography ‘One In A Million’ is available now.